windscribe review

Windscribe Review 2021

If you know anything about Windscribe VPN, you probably know about its forever-free plan, one of the few on the market that stacks up against the premium heavy-hitter VPNs. Although that’s true, there are more dimensions to this iconoclastic VPN service, and I plan to drill down to them in this Windscribe review.

I have a lot of issues with free VPNs. Most of them are flawed at best and sinister at worst, making money by selling your online activity. Windscribe bucks that trend entirely, delivering a free VPN service that’s usable, secure and (as far as I can tell) not evil.

There’s another facet that endears me to Windscribe — and it’s not that someone on its team used the “stonks” meme as the hero image on a blog post.

stonks meme image
Well, not JUST that.

If you read the blog post itself, you’ll see pretty quickly that Windscribe is angry. It’s angry at the people who spy on your internet activity and use it to sell you things you don’t need. It’s angry at “security” apps that don’t protect their users. It’s angry at other VPNs that pay for good reviews they haven’t earned.

Basically, Windscribe is the Bernie Sanders of the VPN world: owning its outsider status, pissed off on behalf of the masses, and “once again asking for your financial support.”

But does its righteous fury translate into a good VPN service? Let’s find out in today’s in-depth Windscribe VPN review.

Product

Windscribe VPN

$9
month for a 1-year plan ($49 per year)

Get Windscribe VPN

Windscribe Review Overview

Windscribe VPN Specs:

WebsiteWindscribe VPN
Our Rating87/100
Pricing$9 month for a 1-year plan ($49 per year)
Free trial availableFree plan
Money-Back Guarantee3 Days
Desktop OSesWindows, MacOS, Linux
Mobile OSesAndroid, iOS, Android TV
Worldwide Server AmountServers in 55 Countries
Simultaneous ConnectionsUnlimited
Streaming AccessNetflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max.

PROS

  • Feature-rich free plan
  • Transparent, responsive security
  • Excellent speeds
  • Many unique features

CONS

  • No subscriptions longer than a year
  • Poor user interface
  • Unhelpful customer support
  • Free servers mostly concentrated in Europe

How Good is Windscribe?

Windscribe is an extremely good VPN service with a fair pricing structure and a painfully bad user interface. If you’re experienced with VPNs and/or on a strict budget, download it right away. If you’re a beginner, you’re better off looking somewhere else.


Windscribe: Latest News and Updates

In most of my VPN reviews, I’d forgive you for skipping this section. Usually, it just covers how the VPN provider added WireGuard support in 2020 or something.

Not so for Windscribe. In June 2021, it was involved in a fiasco that, depending on your perspective, proved Windscribe to be a superior VPN or made it impossible to trust the company ever again.

As Windscribe’s own blog reports, two of its servers in Ukraine were seized on June 24, 2021, as part of a criminal investigation. Because these servers were running an outdated version of OpenVPN, they were not encrypted, which means the authorities who confiscated the servers may have been able to see user traffic on the VPN.

There are a few reasons this isn’t as disastrous a lapse as it seems. First, Windscribe doesn’t log user data, so there was no saved activity for the Ukrainian police to see. Admittedly, though, you have to take Windscribe’s word for that.

Second, there’s no evidence that the authorities could use the servers to spy on user activity. They would need control over the user’s entire DNS network, and the user would have to be using Windscribe without any of its authorized apps.

But if conditions aligned just right, the Ukrainian authorities would have been able to see user activity in the time between when they seized the servers and when Windscribe discovered the seizure.

If you find that to be an unforgivable lapse for a VPN service, I wouldn’t blame you. However, Windscribe’s customer base remained mostly loyal throughout the incident. Some blamed the local server provider for not alerting Windscribe to the ongoing investigation.

The reason I’m not writing Windscribe off is that the company a) made no attempt to hide its mistake, and b) brought its users regular updates about its efforts to close the security hole.

shadowy man in coat and hat
And c) The Ukraine Incident sounds like a great Robert Ludlum novel.

As detailed here, Windscribe responded to the Ukraine incident by overhauling its OpenVPN support to make another failure of that sort impossible.

Thanks to Windscribe’s swift response, I still consider it a strong contender for VPN stardom. But that’s just me. It reminds me of CyberGhost falling under the sway of Kape Technologies: definitely an issue, but only you can make the judgment call (read more about that in the CyberGhost review).


Windscribe Background & History

What Is Windscribe?

Windscribe is a virtual private network (VPN) founded in 2015 by a Canadian entrepreneur named Yegor Sak. According to its website, Windscribe believes that online privacy problems were created by technology, so they can be solved by technology as well.

Windscribe installation
The very first part of Windscribe you’ll see.

By connecting to Windscribe’s VPN servers, users can hide their online activity from big businesses, the government, hackers and geographic firewalls.

Who Owns Windscribe?

Windscribe has no parent company, and founder Yegor Sak remains sole owner.

Windscribe is almost a one-man show, which is unique among top VPNs. Its LinkedIn page lists 17 employees, compared to 96 at ExpressVPN. Sak is the face of the company, writing all its blog posts — some of which straddle the line between McAfee-style psychosis and a sense of humor disturbingly similar to my own.

Where Is Windscribe Located?

Windscribe is based in Canada, where it was founded. Because it’s part of the Five Eyes intelligence network, Canada exchanges surveillance data with the U.S., the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

However, another passionate missive from CEO Sak claims that this shouldn’t make a difference. According to Sak, companies like ExpressVPN and Surfshark only move to offshore jurisdictions like the British Virgin Islands as a marketing gimmick, and anyone who believes differently has had the wool pulled over their eyes.

At times like these, I apply Lebowski’s maxim: “You’re not wrong, Walter, you’re just an…” …ahem, just annoying

Yes, Sak has a penchant for insulting the intelligence of everyone who doesn’t use his VPN. But he’s right that reviewers (including me) might place too much emphasis on Five Eyes as a proxy for a country’s entire attitude toward privacy and surveillance.

The truth is that Canada is a decent choice for a VPN’s home base. Its existing privacy laws are strong, if a bit patchwork. Canada’s Consumer Privacy Protection Act (CPPA) would offer federal protections similar to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), though it hasn’t passed Parliament yet.

How Safe Is Windscribe?

Outside of missteps like the Ukraine seizure, Windscribe is very safe. It uses AES-256 encryption and supports a few strong VPN protocols. It comes with stealth protocol options that make it a great choice for repressive regimes like China and Turkey.

In my tests, Windscribe didn’t leak any IP addresses or DNS requests. More on all this in the “security” section below.

How Has Windscribe Changed Over Time?

Windscribe is one of the newest VPNs on the market (of my favorite VPNs, only Surfshark is younger). Its desktop app is only in v2.0. The latest version of the VPN itself is v1.83 for Windows and macOS and v1.3 for Linux.

None of these changes have significantly altered the way Windscribe works. It started as a VPN, and it has transitioned into a better VPN.


Windscribe Features (95/100)

Feature list:

  • Kill switch
  • Split tunneling
  • Double-hop servers
  • Ad blocker
  • Malware blocker
  • Anti-tracker
  • Secure hotspot
  • Proxy gateway
  • Static IPs
  • Team accounts

Windscribe’s sheer volume of features is one of the most impressive things about it. Some of them are arranged bizarrely, but I’ll get to that later.

Basic Features 

The most important thing to know about the Windscribe app is that the browser extension has a much bigger impact on the experience than you’d expect. With most VPNs, the extension is a copy of the desktop app that you can use from your browser window. Here, it’s the desktop app’s other half. 

You can find most of the desktop app’s basic features under the “general” tab on the left-hand side.

Windscribe general features
General is the tab that looks like an interlocking square and circle.

The features start with basic controls. To connect to your nearest VPN server, simply click the power button. Click the “locations” menu to see what other options are available. You can set up Windscribe to connect automatically when you start your computer and to connect automatically anytime you’re online.

There’s also a kill switch, which is available on the main UI panel. Windscribe calls it a “firewall,” which it technically is, but don’t get confused. This feature is a standard VPN kill switch that shuts down all outbound connections if the VPN disconnects, saving you from accidentally sharing anything confidential.

The browser extension’s basic functionality is similar. You can connect to all the servers that are available to you on the desktop app. However, connecting on the browser extension WILL NOT connect the desktop app as well.

Windscribe browser extension
The browser extension only protects traffic through your browser. Any other app that connects to the internet is not safe unless you connect on the desktop as well.

The browser extension is how Windscribe’s double-hop security option works. By connecting to two different servers on your browser and your desktop, you can run your data through both servers, which gives you an extra layer of protection.

The Windscribe VPN browser extension also offers several highly welcome browser-specific features.

Windscribe browser features
And they all have whimsical names!

I won’t list them all here, but the features on the “blocker” tab aim to block all trackers, adware, phishing sites and unwanted interference of any kind. They work well — I’m a particular fan of the “cookie go away” feature that blocks “we use cookies” banners.

The features on the “other” tab are even cooler. “Time warp” changes your browser’s set time so that it matches the location of your connection. “Location warp” moves your GPS tracker, fooling anybody who wants to find out where you are. “Split personality” randomly swaps out the browser and OS you appear to be using, making it harder to fingerprint your device.

Advanced Features 

Split tunneling is the first advanced feature that jumps to my attention. It’s available on both the desktop and browser versions of the Windscribe VPN app. With split tunneling, you can choose which apps run through the VPN. This speeds up your connection for apps that have nothing to hide.

Windscribe advanced features
You can find some of Windscribe’s more complex features under the “connection” tab.

If you use Windows, you can create a secure hotspot, which lets other people borrow your secure connection without installing Windscribe. Windows and macOS users can take advantage of proxy gateway to bring other devices onto the VPN.

Some features are restricted to paid accounts. With a Pro account, you can manually configure a VPN connection without using any Windscribe apps. You also unlock port forwarding, which lets you use Windscribe to access your home network remotely.

You can access a shared static IP for an extra fee, though there aren’t any dedicated personal IPs available.

What Is Windscribe R.O.B.E.R.T.?

R.O.B.E.R.T. is the desktop side of Windscribe’s ad blocker. It’s a highly configurable tool that’s able to block ads, trackers, malware and phishing. You can also use R.O.B.E.R.T. to control your own impulses by blocking social networks, gambling sites, porn and even known hotbeds of fake news and clickbait.

Like Windscribe itself, R.O.B.E.R.T. pairs a basic free plan (which only blocks malware and ads) with a robust paid plan (which blocks everything) and the option to save money by building your own plan.

And no, the initials don’t appear to stand for anything.

What Is Windscribe ScribeForce?

ScribeForce makes it easy to create team accounts so that an entire organization can use Windscribe. Getting accounts in bulk saves money and lets you pay for everything with one convenient bill. You can manage all ScribeForce accounts from a master control panel.


Windscribe Cost: Plans & Value for Money (88/100)

As you probably know by now, Windscribe VPN has a free version. So why would you pay for it? And what happens if you decide to?

free plan is still the industry leader. Its response to the Ukraine server seizures shot my opinion of it through the roof. It has good speeds, gets into all streaming services (with a little work) and is the most feature-rich VPN in its class.

Beyond that, I firmly believe the VPN industry needs Windscribe. It’s a trickster, a gadfly, keeping other providers on their toes. Yes, it may come off like a jerk, but look deeper and this VPN has a good heart. Do you agree with this Windscribe VPN review? Let me know in the comments.


Windscribe Alternatives

If you’ve tried Windscribe and decided it’s not for you, or if something in this article was a deal-breaker, try these VPNs instead.

ExpressVPN has the same blazing speeds and rich feature set as Windscribe, coupled with a much friendlier UI. However, it’s very expensive, even at the multiyear level. Check out the full ExpressVPN review here.

NordVPN is fast and user-friendly, and a bit more affordable than ExpressVPN, though still pricey compared to Windscribe. Multiyear plans save a lot of money. Check out the full NordVPN review here.

TunnelBear is a free VPN service that’s a lot more focused on nontechnical audiences than Windscribe. Its free plan isn’t quite as robust as Windscribe’s, but it’s easier to use.

1

ExpressVPN

Product

$6.66
per month annually (15 months for $99.95); $12.95 monthly

Extremely fast & easy to use

Servers in 94 countries

Kill switch, split tunneling & no logs

Unblocks all major streaming services

Excellent security record

ExpressVPN is everything a VPN should be, but it's expensive.

Get 49% Off ExpressVPN
2

NordVPN

Product

$4.13
per month for a 2-year plan ($99.12 for two years); 11.95 monthly

Easy to operate

Unblocks every major streaming service

Great savings on one- & two-year plans

Includes a kill switch & ad blocker

Strict no-logs policy

A good VPN service with a fair price.

Get NordVPN
3

CyberGhost

Product

$2.29
per month for a 3-year-3-month plan ($87.75 for three years and three months)

Easy to use

Thousands of servers including streaming servers

Strong encryption

Doesn't keep logs

45-day money-back guarantee

A first-class VPN solution with a charming user interface.

Get CyberGhost
4

TunnelBear

Product

$3.33
per month for a 3-year plan ($120 for three years)

Strong encryption

Easy to use

Anonymous payment with Bitcoin

Team plans

Commercial owner (McAfee)

Good for VPN beginners who spend little time with configuration menus.

Get TunnelBear

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